Whenever the flames surrounding John Delaney’s ill-fated tenure began to rise, John O’Regan was always first on the scene to tackle the blaze, armed with nothing more than two lungs full of air.
We saw it numerous times over the past seven months. The secretary of the Kerry District League frequently appeared on radio and television to defend his stricken comrade, on one occasion going so far as to say that the embattled celebrity administrator should be “running the country”.
Now, following his resignation 10 days ago, the Delaney years are done. The fire fighting failed and all that remains is a charred pile of guff and empty promises.
Yet, in spite of everything, in spite of the litany of misconduct allegations, both pecuniary and moral, O’Regan still stands by his man. Speaking to the Irish Independent last weekend, the FAI Senior Council member once again reiterated his unwavering support for his long-time friend and associate.
“He's done a fantastic job here in Kerry,” O’Regan said. “John Delaney was in the job for 14 or 15 years. He did mighty work for many, many years.
“I'm listening to people in the grassroots in Kerry and Limerick and all over. In youth soccer and junior soccer and schoolboy soccer. They have no problem with John Delaney. He's done an awful lot for that side of the game. The people I have seen whingeing and moaning are the crowd in the League of Ireland.
“I can't see what was done wrong to be honest.”
Frankly, that last line is staggering. Or at least it would be were it not so painfully predictable.
Let’s get this straight. As far as John O’Regan is concerned, John Delaney providing the FAI with a secret bridging loan of €100,000 due to the association having "insufficient funds" was not wrong.
Devising the Vantage Club premium ticketing scheme, a disastrous venture which left the association struggling to pay its share of the Aviva Stadium construction costs, was not wrong.
Accepting, on behalf of the FAI, a secret €5 million pay-off from FIFA over the Thierry Henry handball affair was not wrong.
Accepting a salary of €450,000 (later €360,000) at a time when FAI staff were being made redundant was not wrong.
Taking €36,000 a year to help pay for his rent (in addition to his salary) was not wrong.
Spending €40,000 on his company credit card over a six-month period, including €400 at Tommy Hilfiger and €226 on shirts from Thomas Pink, was not wrong.
The fact that this year the FAI, who Delaney said would be debt-free by 2020, needed financial assistance from UEFA just to avoid collapse was not wrong.
And now, even though the ex-CEO has been forced to quit on the back of all of these astonishing revelations, many of which came to light after some excellent journalism by Mark Tighe and The Sunday Times, O’Regan still “can’t see what was done wrong to be honest”.
Sticking by John Delaney at this stage of proceedings is dumbfounding and when the head of the Kerry District League continues to do so, it undoubtedly causes reputational damage to Kerry soccer.
Does O’Regan genuinely not see what Delaney has done wrong (which would be very concerning) or is he misusing his position and status to defend the indefensible (also very concerning)?
What makes this all the more confusing is the fact that for the first time in 15 years, backing John Delaney cannot in any way benefit the game in this part of the world - if it ever did at all.
Delaney is gone. He has returned his badges, both FAI and UEFA. He has turned in his green tie (though not the one he triumphantly tossed into the crowd in Moscow). He has handed over his shoes (though not the pair he had taken from his feet in Sopot, nor the ones he generously gifted to a needy “itinerant” child).
And, tearfully no doubt, he has even checked in his pride and joy: the novelty, over-sized company chequebook.
O’Regan’s words are problematic but what’s more worrying from my point of view is that his remarks are invariably met with silence. In terms of media coverage, I haven’t seen too many column inches dedicated to the secretary of the KDL or the things he has said.
When various league chairmen and boards around the country unilaterally backed Delaney in March, many clubs spoke out to say that they hadn’t been consulted. That hasn’t been the case in Kerry, despite the fact that virtually everyone I’ve spoken to disagrees with O’Regan’s sentiments entirely.
In fact, when I wrote about O’Regan and the KDL earlier this year, players at certain clubs were warned by their managers not to share, like or comment on my articles.
Why is that?
O’Regan wields a lot of power in Mounthawk Park. In addition to acting as league secretary, he is also fixtures secretary and joint treasurer. And if you were listening to Radio Kerry last Saturday evening, you would have heard the man who runs Kerry soccer assuming PRO duties too as he previewed the weekend’s junior soccer fixtures. In some instances, he even predicted who was going to win.
Allies will point to this omnipresence as evidence of O’Regan’s dedication, as well as proof of how hard it is to find volunteers to fill these roles.
Others, including former league officers and club officials, have claimed privately that in the KDL, it’s O’Regan’s way or the highway. If that is, indeed, the case, it seems as though many people have simply chosen the highway.
O’Regan’s disciples speak of all the hard work he has done for the KDL down through the decades and there’s no denying that over the course of his 44-year reign he has given up thousands of hours of his time.
As the son of a long-serving club official myself, and as someone who has served as PRO for my own GAA club, I know how thankless a job it is to volunteer for an amateur sport. Anyone who takes up a voluntary role within a club or sporting organisation is deserving of great credit, especially if they do it for a long period of time. That should go without saying.
But all the service in the world shouldn’t shield you from criticism if you get something wrong.
When you represent a club or a league, be it for four weeks or forty-four years, you have to be held accountable. O’Regan is answerable to the clubs, not the other way around.
Look at it this way: if GAA president John Horan did what John Delaney did, and Tim Murphy, the chairman of the Kerry County Board, came out and repeatedly backed him without asking the clubs for their opinions, would he get a free pass? No chance. The clubs and the media would be up in arms, and rightly so.
A profile piece by Mike Rice of The Kerryman dated January 2012 revealed that O’Regan “has been nicknamed ‘God’ by many of his friends in the world of soccer as he has made so many things happen at Mounthawk Park”. And it’s not just friends. Foes also seem to cast O’Regan in this divine light.
For many people within the Kerry soccer family, this raises a difficult question. How do you stand up to God?
Fossa School says ‘bonjour’ to French classes
Fossa National School is giving its pupils a headstart in learning a new language.
The school signed up to Language Sampler scheme as part of the ‘Say Yes to Languages’ initiative in primary schools organised by Post Primary languages Ireland in 2021. This is the school’s third year running the module.
Hélène Olivier-Courtney, the school’s French teacher and director of French For All Killarney School of French, covers ten schools in Kerry over the three terms.
The success of the initiative relies on an all-school approach and the active involvement of class teachers and management.
“The whole staff in Fossa certainly helped make this new journey a special and enjoyable experience for the children as we learnt French through art, songs, games and food tasting! This year, we also organised a catwalk on our last day. Our sixth-class students will have such a head start before secondary school and most importantly will have develop curiosity interest and love for the language,” said Hélène.
Opinion: Silent majority needs to stand up and call out far-right hate
By Chris Davies
Last Friday’s Dublin Riots should not have come as a surprise to anyone. It has been bubbling under the surface of Irish society for a good number of years now. The actions of a small minority last week was a culmination of years of racism, hatred and misinformation shared online by far-right groups.
Late on Friday night a disturbing WhatsApp voice note was doing the rounds on social media where a far-right actor could clearly be heard encouraging violence on the streets of Dublin.
“’Seven o’clock, be in town. Everyone bally up, tool up…Any foreigner, just kill them”
Watching the Riots unfold on social media brought me back to when I was working in Dublin a number of years back. My morning commute from Skerries to the city centre involved a dart to Connolly Station followed by a short trip on the Luas to the Jervis. Every week, without fail, I would witness at least one racial slur or attack on someone who didn’t fit the narrow minded view of what an Irish person should look, dress or talk like. I don’t know if it is the eerie silence of public transport that seems to amplify the situation, but that’s where I found it to be most common. The abuse was usually perpetrated by a group of youths or someone who was clearly under the influence of drink or drugs. The victims were always of colour, often dressed smartly enough to presume they were on their way, or coming from work. A far cry from the perpetrators who you could tell were roaming aimlessly around the city looking for trouble.
While shameful to admit, I would often look on and watch the abuse unfold, only to spend the rest of my work day thinking about the poor person who was told to “F*&K off back to your own country”. I would sit at my desk questioning why I didn’t step in and say something. There were one or two occasions where I did step in and call it out, but not nearly often enough.
This disgusting behaviour is much more visible in our cities. Since moving back to Killarney I wouldn’t witness as much direct abuse on the streets but working with the Killarney Advertiser I would be tuned in to local news and some of the comments I read on our social platforms are far worse than anything I witnessed during my time in Dublin.
There is a significant group of people in Ireland that I would call the ‘silent majority’. We are not as outspoken on issues we care about. We tend to observe and consume the news quietly, and only speak of our support or disgust on certain issues in close circles, too afraid we might offend someone. The problem with this is that we are leaving these far-right groups unchallenged, to become louder, more aggressive and more hostile as seen last week.
The past week Sinn Fein and the Social Democrats have been busy in the media expressing no confidence in Justice Minister Helen McEntee and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris but I would suggest that there is a large percentage of the Irish population that bears some of the responsibility. We witness racism in our communities and online every day and we need to start speaking up and calling it out.
On the issue of immigration in Killarney, there is no doubt resources are being stretched and our tourism industry is suffering as a result of an influx of immigration. Locals have also raised concerns in relation to the placement of so many male international protection applicants in one setting and we only have to look back on the incident in Hotel Killarney last year where a number of men were involved in a harrowing stabbing incident to see how that played out.
However, being concerned around immigration is not the same as anti-immigration. It is important to raise these issues with local representatives and Kerry TD’s but also to separate ourselves from far-right groups who are only interested in encouraging violence.
The anarchy we witnessed last week should never be the answer and research shows it is completely unnecessary. Harvard University have looked at hundreds of protests over the last century, and found that non-violent campaigns are twice as likely to achieve their goals as violent campaigns and that it only takes around 3.5% of the population actively participating in the protests to ensure serious political change.
Let’s continue to protest peacefully for issues we believe in, but stand up and speak out against people and movements in our community that incite hate and violence.
Fossa School says ‘bonjour’ to French classes
Fossa National School is giving its pupils a headstart in learning a new language. The school signed up to Language...
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